Friday, 3 July 2015

Dutch Lager Styles 1870 - 1960 (part three)

The first Dutch Lagers
The Lagers initially brewed in Holland were called Beiersch and were in the Munich Dark Lager style. Munich beers were the prototypical Lagers and it was only when bottom-fermenting techniques spread outside Bavaria that Lagers began to be brewed in other hues.

Dutch  Beiersch was roughly the equivalent of a Munich Sommerbier or Lagerbier. It had a gravity higher than Pilsener – 13º to 14º Plato, was less lightly hopped and more poorly attenuated than Lager of the Pilsener type.

Gerstebier was originally a top-fermenting style, but Heineken used the name for a cheap and cheerful type of Lager.  Baartz, of Oranjeboom in Rotterdam, described Gerstebier in 1884 as "although a bottom-fermented beer, it is of a low gravity and not lagered, and is a beer quick to make for a significantly lower price" ("een weliswaar ondergistend bier, maar van licht gehalte en geen Lagerbier, maar een bier van snelle confectie en tot belangrijk lager prijs").*

Though this may well just be sour grapes on the part of Mr. Baartz. From other sources it seems that Gerste Bier was lagered.

Gerste Bier was brewed with Heinieken’s D strain of yeast, while the posher beers were brewed with their A strain, the one they still use today.

Beers called Vienna or Wiener – both Amstel and Heineken brewed one at some point – were presumably amber in the Austrian style.

Culmbacher, named after the Franconian town of Kulmbach, was a style brewed in several countries when Lager first began to spread from Central Europe. It was a very dark, almost black, Lager which was hopped at three times the rate of Munich Lagers.

Hopping rate per 100 pounds of beer
place beer lbs hops
Munich Sommerbier 4
Munich Winterbier 2.3
Bamberg Sommerbier 8
Bamberg Winterbier 4.4
Kulmbach Sommerbier 12
Kulmbach Winterbier 4
Karlsruhe Sommerbier 7
Karlsruhe Winterbier 2.9
Bohemia Sommerbier 3.3
Bohemia Winterbier 2.2
Prague Sommerbier 4.4
England Porter 12
England IPA 32
Scotland Ale 12
Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für öffentliche Gesundheitspflege, Volume 2, 1870, page 276.

Dortmunder, or Export, was originally slightly higher gravity than Pils and not as heavily hopped.

The Culmbacher and Vienna styles didn’t last that long in Holland.

Early Pils
The first mention I can find of Dutch-brewed Pilsener is from 1879. It wasn’t brewed in Amsterdam or Rotterdam, but in Amersfoort:

Het Nieuws van den Dag, 15-10-1879, page 4.

The first advert for their Pilsener I can find is dated 5th March 1879.

* "Korte Geschiedenis der Heineken's Bierbrouwerij Maatschappij N.V. 1873 - 1948", by H. A. Korthals, 1948, page 96.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

That’s my country!

My joy at awaking every morning grows as the years are grated off my life’s cheese. Why do I like grilled sandwiches so much?

Disillusioned by yesterday’s breakfast fiasco, I choose the lazy option. And smash my fast with a huge hammer in the hotel. A bacon and egg hammer.

Posh, but near empty is the dining room. I check the menu. No nasty orange-shaped shocks today.

My charming waitress has an unnerving nametag: Nookie. Carry On films can’t be big over here. It’s only when the women’s footie comes on in the bar that I understand.

“That’s my country!” she tells the barman when she hears the anthem. Norway vs. Thailand is the match. I hope she isn’t too disappointed by the result. Thailand gets thumped four nil.

The eggy bacony stuff I stuff in my stuffing hole is dead good stuff. What’s on the dominoes today? Another expensive taxi ride.

Antsy doesn’t do justice to my mood. I even had the location wrong until 5 minutes ago. It’s not on hippy heaven Haight. But way out in the nobdocks. Taxi time.

American cities are a doddle to navigate. A simple grid pattern of numbered streets. I’m headed for 2505 3rd St. We pass 1st Street. 2nd. 3rd. 10th. 16th. Is it me, or are we going in totally the wrong direction? I’m tempted to say something. But I wouldn’t say goo to a boose. Taxi paranoia is kicking in big time.

Overcoming my Englishness, I mention the strange streeting to my driver. Third is a mutant, twisting off 90 degrees from its brothers. Right. I think. But we do arrive on an improbable 3rd intersecting with 20th. Where I make my next mistake.

Spotting something called Dogpatch I tell the driver we’ve arrived. Mmmm… Something doesn’t look right. The total lack of beer and a coffee theme suggest this might not be the right spot. Fuck. Where is it I’m heading again? I consult my trip document.

Bum. It has the wrong address. It has the Haight location. I’ve scribbled down an address. But it doesn’t seem to right.

I wander off down the street, hoping to stumble across it. Most people would just look it up on their phone. But I don’t have one that works in the US. I catch a group of young blokes coming out of a building. If they know where Magnolia is. They don’t. But do have working phones. A few ticks later I’m much wiser. I need to walk another block.

Magnolia Smokestack is, as you could probably guess, a combination of brewery and BBQ place. I can see how that could work.

Owner Dave McLean hasn’t arrived yet. I get a beer and my books out out back. In the brewery part of the building. As everywhere oak casks are stacked up against a wall. Oddly, most are from a distillery in Utah.

Dave arrives and we chat a little. It’s pretty quiet. And the people out the front look more interested in smoked meat that beer history. But I’ve a pint of cask Mild in my hand. The sun is shining outside and there are free sausages. Things could be a lot worse.

Eventually two people turn up. They’re late because they’d first gone to the Haight Magnolia. I wonder if there is anyone still at the wrong location.

The event is so low key, it’s subsonic. The worst turnout I can recall.

When Dave needs to leave, I hang around for some more cask and some BBQ. They give a month’s worth of meat of various delicious kinds. I’d look pregnant if I ate that lot. Luckily, this is the US. There’s a fridge in my hotel, too. I ask for a doggy bag.

The waitress looks at my tray and says “Death by barbecue.” She’s not far wrong.

Had a pretty nice nerdy chat about beer, even if my rucksack is still as full of books as when I arrived. After several pints of cask Mild and Porter, I’ve now moved on to the IPA. Mmm . . . cask IPA. My favourite sort. IPA flavour without all the fucking burping.

Proving Ground IPA
Pretty clear, a cask-style head. All that citrusy hop thing and low carbonation. Demonstrates why IPA works so well on cask. Hop flavour + drinkability.  I had a couple of keg Imperial Stouts earlier. The cask IPA is definitely going down more easily. With less burping. Go cask!

It’s getting dark by the time I ask them to call me a cab. I’m slightly disappointed no-one has answered: “OK, you’re a cab.”

It’s a long wait. A very long wait. After 30 minutes - and the third PCC car - I get bored. I go back inside and ask them to ring the cab company again.

“Are you headed for the city? I’m just finishing, I can take you.” A very friendly waitress says. That’s another $35 saved.

It’s too late to head anywhere else for a beer when I get back to my hotel. Instead a pick up a couple of bombers of Racer 5 in the nearest convenience store. That should keep me going until sleepytime time.

I’ve a free day tomorrow. One dedicated to fun, fun, fun. And dinner with an old friend.

Magnolia Smokestack
2505 3rd St,
San Francisco, CA 94107.
Tel:+1 415-864-7468

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

What am I doing?

Eating tacos.

A couple of weeks ago.

Let’s Brew Wednesday – 1952 Strong Golden Ale

I long ago learned that there’s nothing new under the sun when it comes to brewing. No matter what today’s “innovators” might claim, pretty much everything has already been done.

So you shouldn’t be surprised to discover that Golden Ale dates back much further than the 1980’s. And not just as far back as the 1950’s. A quick search in the newspaper archive popped up a beer called Golden Ale from almost a century earlier than that.

Bristol Times and Mirror - Thursday 07 May 1868, page 4.

A quick look at the colour confirms that it wasn’t just a fancy name for a bottled Pale Ale, but a significantly paler beer. It’s about the same colour as Pilsner Urquell. Though my guess is that if you’d asked for a Light Ale in a Strong’s pub, this is what you would have been served.

It’s another very simple recipe: pale malt and sugar. That’s it. Oh, and a tiny dash of malt extract. I’ve picked Goldings as the hops because it contained Kent and Farnham hops, according to the brewing record. And it’s pretty hop-accented, so you’d expect good quality hops to have been used. For its gravity, it has the heaviest hopping of any of Strong’s beers.

What else can I tell you? How much it cost down the pub. That’s always handy to know. This was Strong’s range of bottled beers:

Strong bottled beer prices 1955
beer style OG price per half pint price per pint
Golden Ale Light Ale 1033.5 10d 19d
Brown Ale Brown Ale 1033.5 10d 19d
Black Bess Stout Stout 1036.6 10d 19d
SPA Pale Ale 1045.4 12d
SSB Strong Ale 1045.4 12d
Strong brewing record, document number 79A01-A3-3-27
A Strong & Co, price list dated 4th July 1955.

As you can see, they kept the pricing structure simple.

Not sure I’ve much else to tell you. I think I’ll leave it there.

Over to me for the recipe . . . .

1952 Strong Golden Ale
PA malt 5.50 lb 78.57%
no. 1 sugar 0.75 lb 10.71%
glucose 0.375 lb 5.36%
candy sugar 0.125 lb 1.79%
malt extract 0.25 lb 3.57%
Goldings 90 min 0.75 oz
Goldings 60 min 0.75 oz
Goldings 30 min 0.75 oz
Goldings dry hops 1.00 oz
OG 1033.5
FG 1007.5
ABV 3.44
Apparent attenuation 77.61%
IBU 37
Mash at 153º F
Sparge at 160º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 60º F
Yeast WLP007 Dry English Ale

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

California Mild

I’ve given up being surprised by life’s odd twists and turns. Ride the rollercoaster and hope the brakes work.

Those beers at Mikkeller have, against all expectations, livened me up a bit. Or was it that Laphroaig stiffener in my room?

I’ve a long taxi ride ahead of me. All the way to Oakland. On the unfashionable side of the bay. Affordable side of the bay might be a better description. Those fucking yuppie bastards* are fucking up all the world’s great cities.

A California Mild tasting is not so much down my street as off down the motorway, around the ring road, heading for Folkestone and the Chunnel. Talking about the history of Mild? My family haven’t managed to stop me doing that yet. Despite making very clear statements about the fate of certain of my body parts should I persist.

It’s an effing long bridge to Oakland. And a much less sexy one than the Golden Gate. I watch anxiously as the dollars tick up on the meter. I’d take a photo. If I weren’t so hypnotised by the meter. And calculating how many of my rucksack of books I’ll need to sell to afford the return fare.

What do I expect of Hog's Apothecary? Not sure. I could easily have perused the exterior on the internet. Now, why didn’t I do that? Because you’re a lazy arse, Ronald. Oh yes, I remember now.

Square box of a windowy thing, the pub. With a big open skylight. Look it up yourselves if you’re so interested. I’ve Mild to drink, Mild to discuss and . . . Mild to tap? Er, no thanks . . . not while it’s frothing crazily through the soft spile. Had a beer shower before. Way less fun than it sounds.

Only two cask Dark Milds**, instead of the promised three. Still two more than I would have expected to find in California. And the missing Mild has an Ordinary Bitter substitute.

Today’s talk is informal. Or me talking loudly about whatever comes into my head. Bit like an evening down the pub. Where I cling onto the talking stick all night. Maybe that’s why I find it less scary than I should.

A year is a long time. In Brooklyn I was close to pebbledashing my trollies when given 5 minutes’ warning of “an informal chat” of 30 minutes. Like much we fear, it’s not that scary when you look it in the eyes.

We’re all a knotted skein of neuroses. Attracting the attention of the wait staff wracks me with angst. Chatting with a single stranger, too. But standing in front of 20, 50 or 100 strangers, talking beer, doesn’t.

I linger a little, trying to flog some books. But when I’m offered a lift back to San Francisco, even the prospect of free beer can’t hold me. My eyes are still watering from the taxi fare out here.

I don’t go directly to my hotel. Instead getting dropped at my second porcine-themed pub of the day, Hogwash. I spot an old friend on the menu:

Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA
The cask version of this in Portland left me an albino Dalmatian. One of my top beers of 2014. The keg version is full of juicy loveliness. But not as good as the cask. How could it be? One of the things I loved about it were its suicidal tendencies with regard to my throat.

I’m lucky to have got a seat. Probably the most unfashionable in the joint. But at least I’m seated. I forgot to eat at Hog's Apothecary. What’s on the menu here? Nothing I feel like eating, sadly. Unusually for me, I just have the one, and head up Sutter Street in search of food.

At least finding my way back to my hotel will be easy. It’s on the same street as Hogwash.

I get some food on the way back. In a Chinese restaurant. Hunan cuisine, it claims outside. I’m the only customer. It’s 8 PM on Saturday. Not the greatest of signs. When I order a spicy dish, the waiter recommends something similar. An indication they’ve not quite everything that’s on the menu.

Falling asleep is even less of a problem than usual.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Is there a stout that’s really strong?

Beer advertising isn’t what it was. You can’t say hardly anything about the product any more. Several now totally unacceptable slogans are burned into my brain for 1960’s TV ads.

“A Double Diamond works wonders – so drink one today.

“Mackeson: it looks good, tastes good and by jolly it does you good.”

Speaking if which, it’s Mackeson that features in today’s, unacceptable by modern standards, ad.

Is there a stout that’s really strong—yet richly smooth?
There is. When friendly voices welcome you in your favourite bar, or at home after the day's work is done, it's time for a drink that'll put new strength into you - rich but smooth, smooth but oh, so strong - a stout that's as mellow as mellow can be.

Whenever, wherever you pour it out. Mackeson’s, bottled only by the brewers, is always in perfect condition.

Bombed in 1942, and rebuilt in 1951, the Bitterne Brewery is today one of finest inns in the Borough of Southampton. Many of its regulars enjoy their Mackeson’s whilst relaxing in the spacious gardens behind the building. Mr. and Mrs. Vic Sly. the proprietors, are firm supporters of Mackeson's. Says Vic: "Mackeson's is rapidly becoming one of the most popular drinks I serve. I think it is probably the smoothness that appeals to many of my customers - that and its rich flavour and full-bodied strength."



So strong - so smooth.

On sale throughout the country.”
Portsmouth Evening News - Thursday 17 September 1953, page 6.

Before you ask, the answer is yes. The Bitterne Brewery pub does still exist. Though not under that name. It’s now called The Big Cheese (dreadful name) and is part of some Greene King chain of food pubs called the Hungry Horse.

The Sly family had a long association with the pub and had been running it since before WW I, when it had still brewed its own beer.

It’s quite possibly true that Mackeson was one of the most popular drinks. There was a renewed surge in demand for bottled beer after WW II and Mackeson was an incredibly popular beer. Whitbread brewed it all over the place, it seems in every brewery they controlled. It seems quaint today that a style as unfashionable as Milk Stout could be so popular. I think you’d struggle to find a pub selling it nowadays. Other than one of the new breed of American inspired hipster Milk Stouts. (Which in my opinion don’t actually taste like Milk Stout at all.)

Was Mackeson really that strong? Of course it wasn’t. Not unless you call 3.5% ABV strong:

Mackeson Stout 1954 - 1959
Year Beer Price per pint d Acidity OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1954 Mackeson Stout 31 0.04 1046.6 1019.5 3.49 58.15% 1 + 20
1957 Mackeson Stout 32 0.06 1046.3 1015.9 3.93 65.66% 250
1959 Mackeson Stout (Chiswell Street gyle 248) 32 1046.2 1020.8 3.27 54.98% 250
1959 Mackeson Stout (Stockport gyle 289) 32 1046.7 1019.7 3.48 57.82% 275
1959 Mackeson Stout (Kirkstall gyle 117) 32 1046.5 1020.4 3.36 56.13% 350
1959 Mackeson Stout (Hythe gyle 168) 32 1046 1017.8 3.64 61.30% 400
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.
I really should get around to going through the bottled Stouts of the 1950’s properly. Just a shame I’m so lazy.

The Big Cheese
128-130 West End Road,
SO18 6PH.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

The dark side

Life’s full of many things. Most brown, smelly and not what you’d want stuck to your shoes.

I’m not too bad with the jetlag thing. I can snap into new time zones with the same ease I can snap my ageing bones.

Yet something is very wrong. There’s a pub. I’ve money and time. And I’m wondering whether I can be arsed to go there.

This is scary. “Do I really want to go to a pub? Do I need to?”

Pull yourself together, chav. Of course you don’t need to go to a pub. You just fucking have to. Don’t betray generations of pissheads because you’re a bit knacked.

Dragging myself down the hill pub-wards, a familiar scent perfumes the air. Eau de I can’t be arsed to find a toilet. “Students welcome” a sign says on a rusty hotel, prefixed by a particularly pissed-perfumed pavement. Students of what I wonder. Urology?

I’ve not mentioned where I’m headed, have I? Let me mention my excuses. Time. Place. Manner. (That is the right order, isn’t it?) Don’t judge me. No don’t. Fuck off, will you? Fuck right off. I can drink where I want. Or, failing that, where I need to. (Time, place, manner: I’ve no time to drink anywhere else, it’s the only place close enough, quickly.)

My destination is Mikkeller Bar.

For such a scrotum-stretchingly hip operation, they’ve shacked up at a surprisingly scrotum-scratchingly skaggy spot. Is that a good or a bad thing? Or just a thing?

Good, bad, exciting, annoying, fun, work. They’re all just becoming things. Things I experience in those moments between eyelids up and eyelids down. And ultimately, between heartbeat on and heartbeat off.

Wait till you hit fifty. Mortality becomes less of an abstract noun. More of a stract one.

My belly and the bar embrace like the old friends they are. Beer menu? Yes, please.

Time to play hipster bingo. One point for every clean-shaven male, another for every female without a visible tattoo.

Looks like the score is one. If I exclude myself.

As hipster as you can get. Unless you can go less than zero.

Time for a beer.

Bridge Road Little Bling 3,5% Session IPA
My god. A session IPA that’s actually session strength! So why the heel is the serving 33cl? Quite dark but pretty clear. Hoppy and light. Not bad. Except for the price/serving size. $6 for 33 cl, while 50 cl of a 6.9% IPA costs $7. That’s just crazy.

I’m feeling pretty wrecked. I had no energy at all when I got up. Don’t feel much better now. And the walk back to my hotel is mostly uphill.

It’s the usual trendy interior – minimalist exposed brick, chrome taps and wooden-topped bar. Oh look – exposed ducting. Hasn’t that become old hat yet? I’ve always thought it looks crap.

I think I’m going to work my way up the IPA hill. A straight one next.

Tenderloin IPA 6.8% $7 (40 cl)
That’s surprising. An IPA with no trace of murk Smells like lemon washing up liquid. But in a good way. I think. Very citrusy, which I guess is to be expected. OK. I could probably knock back a couple of pints if necessary.

Hope I’ve livened up by this evening. Sorry, later in the afternoon. I’m giving an informal chat on the history of Mild. Luckily it’s a topic I can bang on about pretty easily.

The crowd here is about one third women. One or two blokes who look about my age, but most are under 40, a majority under 30. I feel like a Mass Observation scout noting down that sort of thing. Though I’ll not be jotting down everyone’s orders. That’s way too complicated. There’s a lot more on draught than Mild, Best Mild and Bitter.

Crux Half Hitch Mosaic Hopped Imperial IPA 9.5% $7 (25 cl)
Another clear one. I’m on a roll here. Oh, so that’s what Mosaic tastes like: disinfectant spiced with mint. Not sure I like it that much. But Mosaic hops are hard to get hold of, so they must be good. Mustn’t they?

A Swiss couple have just sat next to me. The woman asks the barkeep: “Which beers are on draught?” “All of them. This is the bottled list” he said, passing them another menu. Guess they aren’t used to that many draught beers back home.

Just noticed they serve some beers at 40º F, some at 45º F and others at 55º F. Shit. Just noticed they have two cask beers. Fuck. I’m off after this one. Though I’ve not seen anyone order one so god knows what condition it’s in.

I’m in luck. There’s a cab waiting almost outside the door. Soon I’m bouncing up the hill home.

Mikkeller Bar
34 Mason St
San Francisco, CA 94102

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Dutch Lager Styles 1870 - 1960 (part two)

Early Lager styles
It’s easy to assume, looking back from the present, that Pilsener was an immediate success. It wasn’t, because, initially at least, it wasn’t the type of Lager brewed.  In the 1860’s, few Pale Lagers were brewed outside Bohemia.

The styles of Lager first brewed outside Germany were inspired by the two pioneers who revolutionised central European brewing: Dreher of Schwechat just outside Vienna and Sedlmayr of Spaten in Munich. The two undertook a long study trip in the 1830’s, mostly to Britain, at the time at the forefront of brewing technology. What they learned allowed them to modernise their breweries and, in the case of Dreher, become the largest brewery on the continent.

Their friendship also brought bottom-fermentation to Vienna. Sedlmayr provided Dreher with yeast after his attempts to brew an English-style Pale Ale in Schewchat had failed. His amber Lager was a huge hit all across Europe, even in the UK. In the 1860’s Dreher’s Lagerbier was being shipped all over the continent and rivalled Bass and Allsopp for international fame.

Which is how Heineken noticed it.  In 1869 there was an international exhibition held in the Paleis for Volksvlijt, not far from Heineken’s new brewery on the Stadhouders kade. Heineken sold beer at the exhibition, but the public were far more interested in what Dreher was selling*. Heineken took note.

Central European Lager styles
Now for a little context. Central Europe was home to many styles if Lager in the second half of the 19th century, some of which no longer exist.

In Bavaria, the styles were, in ascending order of strength:

Winterbier or Schenkbier
Sommerbier or Lagerbier
Doppelbock or Salvator

All of these beers were dark in colour.

Munich beers in 1866
Here are a few analyses of Munich beers in 1866:

Munich Beers in 1866
Brewer Beer Style FG OG ABV App. Atten-uation
Hofbräuhaus Bock Bock 1024.7 1073.7 6.36 66.49%
Salvatorbräu Salvator Bock 1033.3 1076.9 5.61 56.67%
Spatenbräu Bock Bock 1026.8 1077.2 6.54 65.28%
Hofbräuhaus Sommerbier Sommerbier 1014.1 1051.5 4.85 72.62%
Löwenbräu Winterbier Winterbier 1017 1046.1 3.75 63.08%
"Handbuch der chemischen technologie" by Otto Dammer, Rudolf Kaiser, 1896, pages 696-697
Note the generally poor level of attenuation.

Austrian Lager styles

Austrian Lagers came in similar strength bands to those in Bavaria: Winterbier, Sommerbier ,
Export, Märzen and Bock. Though the colours were quite different to in Bavaria. In Bohemia the majority of Lager were pale in colour, while in Vienna amber was the preferred colour. Though increasingly in Vienna and Austria paler types of Lager became popular towards the end of the century.

Dreher beers in the 1870's
Year Brewer Beer Style Acidity FG OG Colour ABV App. Atten-uation
1870 Schwechat Pilsener Pilsener 0.17 1016.7 1051.3 6 4.48 66.33%
1870 Schwechat ?? Lager 1017.4 1055 10.5 4.87 68.36%
1870 Schwechat Lagerbier Lagerbier 0.13 1017.6 1053.5 6.3 4.65 65.96%
1870 Schwechat Märzen Märzen 0.14 1016.9 1054.7 7.1 4.9 67.95%
1870 Schwechat Export Export 0.13 1017.4 1052.6 6 4.56 65.80%
1870 Schwechat Lagerbier Lager 1017.6 1052.6 4.53 66.54%
1876 Schwechat Export Export 0.13 1018.7 1052.7 4.4 63.22%
1876 Schwechat Bock Bock 1016.6 1068.7 7.23 74.70%
"Theory and Practice of the Preparation of Malt and the Fabrication of Beer" Julius E. Thausing, Anton Schwartz and A.H. Bauer, Philadelphia 1882, pages 748-751
Wahl & Henius, pages 823-830

* "Korte Geschiedenis der Heineken's Bierbrouwerij Maatschappij N.V. 1873 - 1948", by H. A. Korthals, 1948, page 29.

Friday, 26 June 2015

The infamous breakfast

I wake at 8. AM. Waking up is always a good start to the day.

I’ve only one thing on my mind: brekkie. The fried things on a plate with bacon kind. I need fuel for what threatens to be a long day.

I don’t fancy eating in the hotel, but have spotted a diner on the map. Not too far away. And not up any hills. It’s even on the same street as my hotel. The sun is shining and my appetite rising as I trundle down the hill.

Damn. They’re shut. Don’t open until 11:00. Pardon me? What’s the point of a diner that doesn’t open at breakfast time?

Time for some random hopeful wandering. What about the kitsch palace that’s Tommy’s Joynt? Maybe they do a fry up. It’s not far. And not uphill, another important consideration.

It looks open. Staff are scurrying around inside.

“Are you open?”

“Yes, but just for drinks. We don’t serve food until eleven.”

I could hang around for a bit, a drink assuaging my hunger.

“Do you do breakfast?”


I’m tempted to say “Well do the trouser press, baby.” But just turn and leave instead. Bum, bum, bum. Where to go now? There must be a breakfast somewhere nearby. Mustn’t there?

Hang on. What’s that over the road? Mel's Drive-in. Sounds like it could acquaint the spot with a damn good thrashing.

It certainly looks the part inside. Classic diner décor, even down to the staff’s uniforms.

You’d think after ordering as many breakfasts in the US as I have that I’d be confident of the fried egg terminology. But there’s always a nagging doubt before I order: what’s the order of the words “easy” and “over”? I could wimp out and ask for sunny side up, but that’s not how I want my eggs. I go with “over easy” and get no weird look. Did I get it right or is tip anxiety at play?

There’s only one thing that can go walking out with breakfast eggs: bacon. But I have to think of my health, too. I order an orange juice.

Breakfast is decent. Though a slice of black pudding would have cheered it up. And me. You need iron.

I’ve a bit of a thirst thing going on. Because of the drought, you don’t automatically get a glass of iced water any more. The orange juice was dead good, mind.

“Can I get another orange juice and the check?”

I go all American when I’m in the US. At least in a few terms. Nothing conscious. It just sort of happens.

The bill is a shock. $25. WTF? The food wasn’t more than $10. Taking a closer look, I’ve paid $11 for two orange juices. That’ll teach me to order without looking at the price on the menu. It was a nice breakfast which would have only been marginally less nice without the orange juice.

Lesson learned, older but wiser and several other clichés heavier, I climb the hill to my hotel. For a bit of a lie down, if I’m honest.

The sort of lying down watching crap TV that fills my time in hotel rooms. Occasionally spiced up with a dram of Laphroaig. Medicinal whisky – does anyone still prescribe that? I’d take them as my GP like a shot. And hopefully I’d have plenty of shots after I’d picked up my prescription.

Discovering doctors had continued to prescribe whiskey during Prohibition was – how can I put this? – mildly surprising.

At three I’m doing a California Mild tasting at The Hog's Apothecary. In Oakland. It seems a waste to waste all the time until then. But there aren’t that many beer places close by. My taxi bill is already demanding its own apartment. Don’t want it growing any more. Once it sprouts facial hair, I’m done.

Time constraints rule out anything further than 20 minutes on foot. Unless I return to Amsterdam, that leaves one possibility. One that leaves me as equivocal as the backing singers on Equi’s first album.

No time to grow facial hair. A temporary tattoo is the only solution.

Slider's Diner
1202 Sutter St,
San Francisco,
CA 94109.s
Tel: +1 415-885-3288

Tommy's Joynt
1101 Geary Blvd,
San Francisco, CA 94109.

Mel's Drive-in
1050 Van Ness Ave,
San Francisco, CA 94109.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Dutch Lager Styles 1870 - 1960 (part one)

Time to start a new series. I've not written much about Dutch beer of late. Time to put that right. Big time.

And with something that actually forms one coherent, larger whole.

Dutch Lager Styles 1870 - 1960
It might come as a surprise that not too long ago Holland was insignificant as a brewing nation, producing far less beer than its smaller southern neighbour, Belgium. 

Late 19th century
Dutch brewing lagged far behind  Britain and Germany. In the 1870’s and 1880’s beer production was a feeble 1.3 to 1.5 million hectolitres per year*, far less than the 2 million hectolitres brewed in the province of Holland alone in the early 1600’s**. While Britain and Germany were brewing more than 40 million hectolitres a year*** and Belgium between 9 and 10 million****.

The process that turned Holland into a major player in world brewing began in the 1860’s and 1870’s with the establishment of a new type of brewery. Ones inspired by new developments in central Europe. Lager breweries.

The first of these new breweries was the Beiersch Bierbrouwerij Artevelde, founded in 1852 in Groningen*****. Koninglijke Nederlandsche Beiersch Bierbrouwerij, followed in 1866. A few years later, in 1870, Heineken started brewing Lager in his new brewery in the edge of Amsterdam and in 1871 Bavarian Brewery de Amstel was established. De Zwarte Ruiter in Maastricht began in 1872. The Amersfoortsche Beiersch-Bierbrouwerij started in 1873. Taking advantage of experimentation and innovation elsewhere in Europe, these were amongst the most modern breweries on the continent.

Lager brewing in countries like Holland with relatively mild winters was given a huge boost with the development of artificial refrigeration in the 1870’s. Van Linde’s ice machines meant that brewers were no longer dependent on supplies of natural ice harvested in the winter******. It made the cost of brewing Lager much cheaper.

A change in the tax system in 1867 also helped Lager-brewing more financially viable. Until then tax was charged on every time the mash tun was filled. For top-fermenting beers which were brewed by the infusion method, the mash tun was only filled once. With a decocted Lager, it was filled two or three times, thereby multiplying the amount of tax due. After 1867 brewers also had the option to pay tax based on the quantity of malt used. By opting for this new method of taxation, it was possible to brew bottom-fermenting beer much more cheaply*******.

The new “Bavarian” style beers were such a success that in 1873 Heineken stopped brewing top-fermenting beers and concentrated 100% on Lagers********.

* "A History of Brewing in Holland 900 - 1900", by Richard W. Unger, 2001, page 371.
** "A History of Brewing in Holland 900 - 1900", by Richard W. Unger, 2001, page 372.
*** "European Statistics 1750-1970" by B. R. Mitchell, 1978, pages 283 and 284.
**** "European Statistics 1750-1970" by B. R. Mitchell, 1978, page 283.
***** "Opvallend anders: De Amersfoortse Phoenix Brouwerij  1873-1870", bu Onno Kleefkens, page 16.
****** "Korte Geschiedenis der Heineken's Bierbrouwerij Maatschappij N.V. 1873 - 1948", by H. A. Korthals, 1948, pages 83-84.
******* "Dommelsch Bier, 'n eeuwenoude traditie" by Henk Hovens, 2004, pages 44 - 45.
******** "Korte Geschiedenis der Heineken's Bierbrouwerij Maatschappij N.V. 1873 - 1948", by H. A. Korthals, 1948, page 63.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1952 Strong SAK

You might be starting to notice a theme here. Or two themes. Or three. I’m not quite sure how many of them there are myself.

It’s good to stray outside London every now and again. I’m gradually building up a better set of provincial brewing records. Because the capital wasn’t always typical of the country as a whole. Porter is a good example. Draught Porter was gone from most of England, Scotland and Wales by 1900. Yet in London it limped on until WW II.

Pre-WW I there seems to have been more regional variation in strength. Some country brewers had products considerable weaker than their London equivalents. But two world wars and pretty standardised prices (in some periods regulated prices) flatten those variations out. By the 1950’s there was little difference between the gravity of a beer in London and elsewhere.

But everything still wasn’t completely standard around the country. In the 1950’s you’d expect Mild to be the weakest and cheapest draught beer on offer in a pub. That wasn’t the case at strong. Their weakest draught was an AK, or Ordinary Bitter.

Take a look:

Strong draught beer prices 1955
beer style OG price per pint
SAK Bitter 1030.5 13d
XXX Mild 1033.5 14d
PA Best Bitter 1036.6 15d
SSB Strong Ale 1045.4 20d
Strong brewing record, document number 79A01-A3-3-27
A Strong & Co, price list dated 4th July 1955.

Which makes Strong SAK an unusually weak Bitter. Looks rather like Boy’s Bitter, the West Country style of weak Bitter that seemed to fill the slot taken by Mild in the rest of the country. A Bitter of barely 3% ABV intended to be drunk by the gallon.

It’s a pretty simple recipe, just base malt and sugar. Now if Kristen were here he’d be telling you about how light and crisp the beer is. Or somesuch. I’m not him. So I’ll tell this beer is particularly crisp and light. It’s bound to be with the high level of attenuation and  all that sugar. Should make a very pleasant summer supping beer.

I’ll leave it there and pass you over to  . . . . . me (again)

1952 Strong SAK
mild malt 4.00 lb 54.24%
PA malt 2.25 lb 30.51%
no. 3 invert sugar 0.25 lb 3.39%
table sugar 0.50 lb 6.78%
candy sugar 0.25 lb 3.39%
malt extract 0.125 lb 1.69%
Fuggles 90 min 0.50 oz
Fuggles 60 min 0.50 oz
Goldings 30 min 0.50 oz
OG 1030.5
FG 1006
ABV 3.24
Apparent attenuation 80.33%
IBU 22.5
SRM 7.5
Mash at 153º F
Sparge at 160º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 60º F
Yeast WLP007 Dry English Ale

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Take the Caltrain

Redwood City. That’s where I’m headed. I dive into a taxi, destination the Caltrain terminus on 4th Street.

My driver looks to be on the unfashionable side of 70. Though people keep telling me 70 is the new black. (I think that’s what they say. I’m rarely paying much attention unless it’s me doing the talking.) Seems he has a place in Nicaragua and lives there with his Nicaraguan girlfriend part of the year. Hope I’m still up to that at his age.

The station, as many in the US, looks ridiculously small for the size of the city. There are 10 platforms. But it is the main station for commuter trains heading south. Victoria Station it ain’t.

A sarnie would be nice. But there’s only a Subway.

It’s a bit chaotic. Doesn’t look like everything is quite running to plan. How quaint. There’s a man hanging up a boards to indicate which train leaves from which platform. Or track, depending on your linguistic orientation.

A bizarre white collar scrum forms, the middle classes battling politely for space. They know the train is going to be packed. I don’t bother with any of that shit, but walk right to the far end of the train. In the commuting league, this Bradford Northern, not up your Arsenal. I get a seat. But soon it’s jammed.

An accident has buggered up the schedule. My supposed express has turned into a Bummelzug. I’m already late for my lift.

I’m being met at Palo Alto station. I hope. By one of the blokes from the brewery where I’ll be vainly trying to flog the rucksack full of books on my back. Late and I’ve no idea what my car date looks like. I wonder about a well-rounded bloke with a beard. Until someone confidently walks up and says “Hello, Ron. I’m Malcom.”

He has a rather cool old BMW. In which he drives me to Freewheel Brewing. Site of whatever the hell it is I’m doing tonight. It’s rarely 100% clear. I’ve learned to be ready for surprises. Like being told with five minutes’ warning you’re expected to talk on a subject, without hesitation, deviation or repetition. The hell version of Just a Minute.

A proud row of soldier pumps greet me at the bar.

“Pint of Bitter, please. Thanks very much.”

London Calling it’s called. And full of casky goodness.

I don’t want to get into any arguments. But when done right cask fucking knocks the spots off any other form of dispense. Doesn’t mean other methods can’t deliver good beer. You just can’t beat cask. But what do I know? I’ve only travelled the world searching out good beer for a few decades.

The lowkeyness of the event is probably for the best. And chatting about beer – now, you may be surprised to hear this - but I am quite keen on it. I’m getting a second wind. Is it the beer? The stimulating conversation? More likely that it’s 6:30 AM in Amsterdam.  When I get up.

Cask’s caress against keg’s spiked fist. Low carbonation is another reason to love cask. For me, at least. And, when we’re really, really honest, we only give a fuck about ourselves. Mum, too, obviously. Maybe Dad, if he isn’t a shit. And siblings. All close family, I guess.

I try several varieties of casky goodness, while my body asks: is it Wednesday or July? 10 PM is the answer.

A lift back to the city saves me more than the $7.50 train fare. A whole load of hassle. And the fear of falling asleep in an inappropriate place. I’m feeling that knacked.

Dwayne had a rare talent for falling asleep inappropriately. (Like on the train home. He always overshot.) And for being unwakeable. Not someone to take to a restaurant after a session.  How often did we run off not without paying the bill, but without taking away our friend?

I sleep unsurprisingly well.

Tomorrow it’s the infamous orange juice breakfast. One of the most traumatic experiences of my life.

Freewheel Brewing Company
Marsh Manor Shopping Center,
3736 Florence Street,
Redwood City, CA 94063.